Overnight Technology

Hillicon Valley: Krebs is back on Capitol Hill | Cybersecurity as ‘preeminent threat’ | News on data privacy and voter security

"60 Minutes"

Welcome to Hillicon Valley, The Hill’s newsletter detailing all you need to know about the tech and cyber news from Capitol Hill to Silicon Valley. If you don’t already, be sure to sign up for our newsletter by clicking HERE. 

Follow our cyber reporter, Maggie Miller (@magmill95), and tech team, Chris Mills Rodrigo (@chrisismills) and Rebecca Klar (@rebeccaklar_), for more coverage.

Cybersecurity was in the spotlight on Capitol Hill today as Christopher Krebs returned to testify to the House Homeland Security Committee on cyber threats. Ahead of the hearing, The Hill spoke with two key committee leaders about their cyber priorities. And Congress is coming increasingly under pressure to produce a federal approach to privacy as Virginia is poised to approve a data privacy bill this week. 


CYBER RETURNS TO CAPITOL HILL: Christopher Krebs, the nation’s former top cybersecurity official, and other officials pushed hard Wednesday for taking a strong stance against malicious hackers in the wake of a devastating cyberattack on the federal government.

“As long as the tools are available, vulnerabilities exist, money and secrets are to be had, and the lack of meaningful consequences persist, there will be malicious cyber actors,” Krebs testified to the House Homeland Security Committee during a hearing focused on cybersecurity threats.

Read more about the hearing here. 


LEADERS ACTUALLY AGREE ON SOMETHING: Rep. Yvette Clarke (D-N.Y.), the newly appointed chair of the House Homeland Security Committee’s cybersecurity subcommittee, is gearing up to take action on combating escalating cyber threats.

In one of her first interviews as chair of the subcommittee, Clarke detailed her plans to address threats including the recent massive Russian hack of the federal government, election security, and ongoing ransomware attacks as some of her early actions. 

Read more about The Hill’s conversation with Clarke.

The Hill also spoke with new committee ranking member John Katko (R-N.Y.) ahead of Wednesday’s hearing on cybersecurity, with Katko emphasizing the need to approach increasing cybersecurity threats in a bipartisan manner.

“What I would really like to establish … is to get people’s attention that cybersecurity is probably the preeminent threat to our national security right now and homeland security,” Katko told The Hill on Tuesday. “It’s the new, real threat to this country.”

Read more about The Hill’s conversation with Katko.


PRIVACY, PLEASE: With Virginia poised to become the second state to pass a data privacy bill, pressure is rising on Congress to create a federal framework for data privacy laws. 

Several other states are also considering proposals that vary in regulation standards and enforcement practices, following in the footsteps of California which passed a comprehensive privacy bill in 2018 before expanding it through a ballot measure in November. 

“Just California in and of itself has [had] a major impact because it’s such a large state economy,” said Omer Tene, vice president of the International Association of Privacy Professionals. “Even without other states joining the fray, there was a lot of pressure building in Washington, D.C., to pass federal privacy legislation, if only to put in place something that preempts California law.”

Read more here


WE’LL CIRCLE BACK ON THAT: White House Press Secretary Jen Psaki said Wednesday the unfinished deal under the Trump administration to force Chinese-owned ByteDance to sell TikTok is still under review. 

“I would note broadly speaking, we are comprehensively evaluating … risks to U.S. data including from TikTok and will address them in a decisive and effective fashion,” she said at a briefing, but declined to share details on a timeframe for the evaluation. 

The Wall Street Journal reported the Biden administration has shelved the plans to force the sale, and will likely consider a different deal than the one proposed under Trump. 

But Psaki pushed back a bit on the report, saying “it’s not accurate to suggest that there is a new proactive step by the Biden White House.”

Read more here


NEW VOTING SECURITY GUIDELINES: A federal election commission on Wednesday approved new national guidelines to overhaul voting equipment standards, including boosting security, privacy and the use of paper ballots as well as the auditing of election results.

Election Assistance Commission (EAC) commissioners unanimously approved the guidelines, marking the most significant change to voting technology and equipment standards in over 15 years.

The guidelines, formally known as Voluntary Voting System Guidelines (VVSG) 2.0, are the product of nearly six years of work by the EAC, election officials, technology experts and members of the public giving input.

Read more about the guidelines here. 


LESS POLITICS PLEASE: Facebook said Wednesday it will start testing ways to reduce the amount of political content users see, building on CEO Mark Zuckerberg’s commitment on a call with investors last month to dial back political content.

The tests will start this week in Canada, Brazil and Indonesia, and will expand for some users in the U.S. in coming weeks, Facebook said in a blog post. 

Information about the coronavirus pandemic from authoritative health organizations, as well as content from official government agencies and services, will be exempt from the tests, but pages for individual politicians or public officials will not be exempt, a Facebook spokesperson confirmed. 

The push comes as Facebook is under mounting scrutiny to change its algorithm after the deadly riot at the Capitol on Jan. 6.

Read more here


AND DON’T COME BACK: Twitter doubled down Wednesday on confirming its ban on former President Trump is permanent, even if he runs for president again in 2024. 

“The way our policies work, when you’re removed from the platform, you’re removed from the platform whether you’re a commentator, you’re a CFO or you are a former or current public official,” Twitter’s chief financial officer, Ned Segal said on CNBC’s “Squawk Box.” 

“He was removed when he was president, and there’d be no difference for anybody who [was] a public official once they’ve been removed from the service,” Segal added.

Trump was banned from the platform following posts about the deadly Jan. 6 riot. 

Read more here


UNEMPLOYMENT TEST: Democratic Senators unveiled a bill Wednesday seeking to fix the technology powering America’s floundering unemployment insurance system.

The Unemployment Insurance Technology Modernization Act was introduced by Sens. Ron Wyden (Ore.), Mark Warner (Va.), Sherrod Brown (Ohio) and Catherine Cortez Masto (Nev.).

“While enhanced jobless benefits have enabled millions and millions of families to pay the rent and buy groceries, many states have been unable to get benefits out the door in a timely manner,” Wyden, the chair of the Senate Finance Committee, said. “That’s completely unacceptable when families are depending on these benefits to keep a roof over their heads.”

Read more.

Lighter click: When life hands you lemons…

An op-ed to chew on: How to stop handing our cybersecurity keys to hackers



Facebook Is Said to Be Building a Product to Compete With Clubhouse (New York Times / Mike Isaac)

Twitter Says It Won’t Block Journalists, Activists, And Politicians In India To Protect Free Speech (BuzzFeed News / Pranav Dixit)

Some Things Jeff Bezos Can Do With His $193 Billion (The Verge / Elizabeth Lopatto)

Tags Catherine Cortez Masto cybersecurity Data privacy Donald Trump Hillicon Valley Jeff Bezos Jen Psaki John Katko Mark Warner Mark Zuckerberg Ron Wyden Russian hack Sherrod Brown Yvette Clarke

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